Girls state tennis five things to watch: Led by Courtney Leafgren, Shelby Naill, Eaton pursues first 3A title | MyWindsorNow.com

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Girls state tennis five things to watch: Led by Courtney Leafgren, Shelby Naill, Eaton pursues first 3A title

A little tennis?

» What: Class 4A and 3A Girls Tennis Championships

» When: Today through Saturday. Action is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. today, but tournament directors for the 3A tournament will consider pushing back the start time to 11 a.m., if it is raining early this morning. A similar delay could be warranted for 4A. If the schedules stays true, the first two rounds of the championship bracket will be played today with the semifinals and first two rounds of playbacks taking place Friday. The finals and playback finals will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.

» Where: 3A (Greeley) — Centennial Courts, 2201 23rd Ave.; University of Northern Colorado, 11th Ave. and 23rd St. (No. 3 and 4 doubles). Work Out West and Northridge High School are considered options if the weather is factor. 4A — Pueblo City Park.

» First-round matchups: 3A — Eaton: No. 1 singles, Myiah Scott (12-1) vs. April McDonald, Pueblo Central (11-5); No. 2 singles, Lindsey Leafgren (12-1) vs. Paige Giltner, Holy Family (7-9); No. 3 doubles, Darcie Kaiser (11-0) vs. Nicole Pei (14-0), Colorado Springs Christian; No. 1 doubles, Courtney Leafgren & Shelby Naill (13-0) vs. Hannah Girard and Alex Garduno (13-4), Pueblo Central; No. 2 doubles, Kaitlyn Griffith & senior Kinsey Mawson (11-1) vs. Gracie Harrison & Brooke Sweatman (7-7), Colorado Springs Christian; No. 3 doubles, Abby Sears & Maddy Harper (13-1) vs. Aria Barbour and Quin Ramos, Dawson; No. 4 doubles, Sydney Booth & Mikaelee Salberg (12-0) vs. Abby Holm and Elizabeth Chwialkowski (5-4), Lutheran.; University: No. 1 singles, Janna Phansiri (10-3) vs. Mary Williams, Aspen (7-5); No. 2 singles, Camille Krammer (9-2) vs. Viridiana Bonilla, St. Mary’s Academy (6-7); No. 3 singles, Janie Phansiri (10-3) vs. Lindsey Bovine, Holy Family (11-5); No. 1 doubles, Erin Seeley & Heather Marion (6-6) vs. Abby Ceglowski & Rebekah La Croix, Salida (10-6); No. 2 doubles, Liz Van der Torre & Alexsi Vieyra (11-2) vs. Allie Blank & Isabelle Shehan, Dawson; No. 3 doubles, Katie Potter & Natalie Orcutt (7-3) vs. Marissa Roccanova & Jessie Levesque-Etling, Conifer (5-6); No. 4 doubles, Vanessa Gabaldon & Diandra Brooks (8-4) vs. Nicole Hilton & Skylar Schutter, Dawson; 4A — Greeley West: No. 1 doubles, Hana Cropper & Delaynie McPhee (7-7) vs. Hunter Jones & Lizzie McCurdy, Discovery Canyon (7-2); No. 2 doubles, Alicia Cruz & Jana Sherif (6-6) vs. Taylor Heinicke & Ariana Arenson, Cheyenne Mountain (16-4); Windsor: No. 3 singles, Brooklynn Kelley (5-5) vs. Grace Qiu (9-2), Rampart; No. 3 doubles, Anna Lowndes & Kiley Smith (7-3) vs. Cailin Foster & Regina Park (8-1), Palmer Ridge; No. 4 doubles, Natalie Talbot & Brooke Shrader (9-1) vs. Maya Glasnr & Clara Thompson (9-9), Coronado.

If local high school tennis players and supporters alike have their druthers this week, long streaks of futility will fall while tennis programs rise.

Players from Windsor make the trek today back to a familiar setting in Pueblo for the Class 4A Girls Tennis Championships, and Greeley West makes a return to 4A for the first time in about a half decade.

Meanwhile, the Colorado High School Activities Association is launching a new era of small-school tennis with the introduction of the 3A state tournament, taking place right here in Greeley — at Centennial Courts, the University of Northern Colorado and, if the weather mandates, Work Out West and Northridge High School.

While Windsor and Greeley West will try to embrace somewhat of an underdog status, 3A is where the odds become favorable for a Weld program to crown the county's first state champion in years.

With full teams, Eaton and University could figure prominently into the race for the first 3A team title, with individual championships well within reach.

On B3, check out five things to watch during the 3A/4A state tournaments, which begin today and end Saturday.

1 Could Eaton's past success in 4A translate to even bigger things in 3A?

With a full team, five regional champions and three state tournament participants still undefeated, Eaton figures to be one of the top contenders for the first 3A team title.

Even the four participants who are not unbeaten have just one loss apiece. That speaks to the Reds' utter domination.

Eaton is no stranger to state tournament success, despite playing against bigger schools throughout the program's history.

At the 4A state tournament this past spring, the Reds placed 10th, and the No. 1 doubles team of Courtney Leafgren and Emily Harper placed third in their bracket.

Eaton spent the entire regular season continuing to challenge itself against top competition from 3A and 4A.

Finally playing among programs of their own size, the Reds will look to prove themselves as an immediate contender in their new classification.

Eaton coach Mike Brisendine said his program is shooting for a top-five finish, knowing that would put the Reds in a prime position to contend for the team title without an established, dominant team in the new class.

"I'm not going to say that we're going to come out and we're going to win (state), but there are a lot of teams have that opportunity," Brisendine said. "I think it's wide open."

2 How will Windsor's long list of first-time participants fare?

Windsor qualified one singles player and two doubles teams. All five players are first-time state tournament participants.

Sophomore Brooklynn Kelley (5-5) is Weld's sole 4A singles qualifier.

She is joined by teammates, junior Anna Lowndes and freshman Kiley Smith (7-3) at No. 3 doubles, and freshmen Natalie Talbot and Brooke Shrader (9-1) at No. 4 doubles.

Although few would expect first-year state tournament participants to make a run without the vital experience a championship pursuit usually requires, sometimes ignorance is bliss. Having never experienced state before, Windsor's qualifiers will try to parlay their inexperience and underdog status into a relaxed, stress-free mental approach.

3 Can Greeley West usher in a new era with some wins?

Like Windsor, Greeley West's two doubles qualifiers lack state tournament experience.

Like University and Eaton, the Spartans are dropping down a class after playing bigger schools in 5A for the past half decade.

West enjoyed plenty of success during its previous tenure in 4A.

With West's enrollment at 1,569, the Spartans should stay at 4A for the foreseeable future, as the classification's cut-off is at 1,631.

Even though West doesn't have a large contingent in Pueblo this week, its No. 1 doubles team of juniors Hana Cropper and Delaynie McPhee (7-7) and its No. 2 doubles team of senior Alicia Cruz and sophomore Jana Sherif (6-6) hope to give the Spartans a little taste of success with likely much more to come at the 4A level.

4 Can University's numbers stay strong deep into the tournament?

Like Eaton, University is bringing its entire team to the 3A state tournament. However, the Bulldogs may not be quite the same threat as the Reds to contend for the state title after being a distant runner-up to Eaton at regionals last week and having just two individual regional champions, compared to the Reds' five.

Each of University's qualifiers have two or more losses. So, the Bulldogs won't be favored in too many matches.

However, if they can score a few quality wins, University could have the chance to keep a chunk of its team in contention into the latter rounds of the tournament and perhaps position itself for a top-10 team finish.

Regional champions Camille Krammer (9-2, No. 2 singles) and the team of Katie Potter and Natalie Orcutt (7-3, No. 3 doubles) likely give the Bulldogs their best chance of picking up wins at state.

5 Does Eaton's No. 1 doubles team have the tools, experience to charge one step further, to a state title this year?

A year ago, Leafgren placed third in the 4A state tournament at No. 1 doubles with Harper. Meanwhile, Shelby Naill qualified for state at No. 3 singles.

They came together for the first time at No. 1 doubles this year and haven't looked back. Their chemistry has been undeniable.

At 13-0, they haven't dropped a set all season and have given up more than two games in a set only twice.

Eaton could have multiple competitors make a run to the final couple rounds Friday and Saturday, but likely, none has a better chance of topping the bracket than Leafgren and Naill.

"They're probably the top team in the state, record-wise," Brisendine said Friday after regionals. "A lot of people have said that they think (Leafgren and Naill) are probably the best team in the state. … Good things are happening for them."